Where WordPress Runs

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In the last section we briefly touched on the requirements for running the WordPress.org software. The two main requirements are PHP 5.6 or greater and MySQL 5.6 or greater OR MariaDB version 10.0 or greater. MariaDB in its most basic sense is a newer version of MySQL. Check the MariaDB site for a more thorough comparison.

There is also the server. We need a server to run PHP and MySQL on. Any sever configuration that can run those two services will do, but WordPress recommends either Apache or Nginx.

Apache has been around forever, in terms of the internet, and in doing so has benefited from years of documentation and development. If you’re looking to setup your own server, and unless you’re a server tech I don’t recommend it, Apache is the quickest setup to get WordPress working on. That’s just in my limited server setup experience. See the server tech line.

Nginx on the other hand was developed to handle some of the issues Apache has had trouble dealing with. Particularly with handling tens-of-thousands of concurrent requests to the web server. Nginx is gaining popularity among WordPress hosting due to its ability to scale to larger traffic websites on minimal hardware when compared to Apache. Basically, it’s faster.

For a more detailed comparison of Apache vs Nginx check out this article from Digital Ocean.

Not to say that Apache can’t be fast. A good server configuration can get a WordPress website running silky smooth on Apache or Nginx. That’s why we’re going to focus on hosting for the rest of this section. But before we do a little bit on self-hosting.


If the developer in you wants full control over your server configuration self-hosting is the way to go. Of course, you’ll be on the hook for fixing any kind of server issues outside of the server farm going down. Unless you host your own server farm. Then you’re on your own and probably aren’t reading this anyway.

My experience with self-hosting has been hit and miss. It’s been relatively easy to get things setup thanks to pre-made server configurations for WordPress available through Digital Ocean and Amazon Web Services. But after the setup, fine-tuning things and tracking down issues has proven much more difficult and time consuming.

The price certainly can look good on a self-hosted server, but if you’re not sure what you’re doing the time-cost lost to fixing issues and debugging certainly makes that a little less appetizing. I’ve switched all of my sites off Digital Ocean at this point due to just that.

That being said Digital Ocean and Amazon can make for great hosting which is affordable and very scalable. Amazon provided some of the best server speed I’ve experienced on a site. Once we got it to a point it wasn’t going down every other day due to the configuration.

If you go self-hosted be prepared to spend a lot of time learning server configuration, or have someone on hand that you can trust to be there to get your site back up in the middle of the night. I’d recommend the latter.

General Hosting vs Managed WordPress Hosting

General Hosting

General Hosting providers are going to be your Bluehosts, your GoDaddys, and your SiteGrounds1. These are hosts that provide servers for all kinds of web applications. Not just specifically WordPress. Though all 3 of these hosts do have psuedo-WordPress hosting. Meaning they offer quick and easy setup for hosting WordPress sites and many of them have tools for easily configuring things like WordPress caching, auto-updates, and more.

SiteGround and Bluehost are both in the WordPress recommended hosts. GoDaddy has been the red-headed step child of the developer community for some time now. However, they’re very active in the WordPress community and all of the GoDaddy-ers I’ve met at WordCamps have been very knowledgeable. So things there may be on the up swing.

The general host’s “WordPress” specific hosting tends to be more their regular hosting dressed up in WordPress branding for marketing. But this pseudo-WordPress hosting represents a nice bridge between self-hosting and managed WordPress hosting as it gives you a little bit more control over certain areas of your server, and includes some tools designed for WordPress.

I personally use SiteGround to host my sites.

Typically that is done through the cPanel. If you’ve hosted a website before, you’ve probably dealt with the cPanel. And if you’re not really a developer you probably haven’t used much in the cPanel aside from File Manager. That’s where managed WordPress hosting can help simplify things.

Managed WordPress Hosting

Managed WordPress hosts are popping up all over the place. These are hosting providers that offer servers fine-tuned to host WordPress and WordPress only. If you know you’re going to use WordPress, I’d highly recommend getting a managed WordPress host. They’re a bit more expensive than general or self-hosting. But that extra money gets you a server that is specifically tuned for WordPress and support agents that deal with WordPress issues everyday, 24/7.

The user experience is often cleaner in the user portal for managed WordPress hosting, as they don’t have to bother with as many of the features cPanel requires. Getting setup with SFTP, accessing your database, and more tends to be a breeze with managed WordPress hosting.

The biggest reasons to go managed WordPress though are the speed benefits of having a server configured only for WordPress and the support. Having a helpful support team that is available 24/7 is a life-saver when problems arise on your site. General hosting will have 24/7 support too, but they deal with all kinds of issues not related to WordPress sites.

Some managed WordPress Hosts:
WP Engine

The Final Word

Your WordPress hosting choice really comes down to what you’re looking for as a user or business. If you don’t want to worry about server configurations and know you’re using WordPress, then managed WordPress hosting is likely the way to go. If you want to set up your server from the ground up, then self-hosted is your best bet. If you land somewhere in the middle you may want to consider a general WordPress host.

For more information on picking the right kind of hosting for you, check out this article by Chris Lema.

  1. Affiliate link. I use SiteGroun for all my sites. Here’s a non-affiliate link too.

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